To continue my series on handmade kids' toys, here's one of my favorite DIY toy projects. Cloth beach balls are simple to sew, and they make adorable baby gifts. For preschoolers, they're a soft, gentle, less-destructive ball for indoor play. As an added bonus, due to their patchwork nature, they can be made from smaller scraps of fabric that are left over from other projects.
I discovered this project on the Purl Soho website many years ago. This link will take you to Purl's beautiful and detailed tutorial, including templates to make three different sized beach balls.
When I followed the Purl tutorial the first time, I came across one challenge. The instructions suggested cutting the center circle from cotton fabric, folding the edges under, and then hand stitching it onto the ball. This turned out to be easier said than done!
Here is the first ball that I made for a sweet friend's baby boy. Despite my best efforts, the blanket stitch around the central circle came out looking more than a little homemade!
As a scandalous side note, the plaid fabric was actually snipped from an ill-fitting sundress. Sorry, Ann T., but crafting trumps fashion! And as I've said in past posts, when you think like a Martian, you don't see tablecloths, pillowcases, dresses, or curtains. You just see fabric!
I made another beach ball for a sweet baby girl. That time, I used fleece for the center circle. I cut the edges of the circle with pinking sheers to reduce fraying, and then hand stitched it onto the ball. As you can see from the photo, I use the term "circle" loosely!
I made the ball below for my daughter around five year ago from mismatched fabric scraps selected purely for their "fun factor". If my memory serves, an oxford shirt may have been sacrificed for the black and white gingham, and the purple fleece came from an outgrown sweatshirt.
Again, I cut the sweatshirt fleece with pinking sheers, and I stitched it on "wrong-side-out" for the center circle. I preferred the texture of the underside of the fleece fabric. Reversed fabric can be used in home decorating too, as I discussed in this post.
If you'd like to make a cloth beach ball but don't have fabric scraps on hand, Amazon offers some neat fabric bundles like this one by Amy Butler. You may want to compare dimensions with the Purl template prior to placing an online order, as some bundle shapes (eg: smaller squares) might not work for this project.
My daughter's favorite way to play with this ball was to sit at the bottom of the stairs, throw the ball up to a higher stair, and laugh as it gently bounced back down to her. Despite this ball's involvement in more than one pillow fight, it has never been implicated in any bumped noses or broken vases a la Peter Brady. What's not to love!?
This post contains Amazon affiliate links.